Blog post: Clean Water Rule

clean water blog

The story of the Clean Water Rule dates back to a summer day in 1969 when Ohio’s Cuyahoga River, a tributary of Lake Erie, became so polluted with sewage and industrial waste that it burst into flames. The disaster sparked an environmental revolution in the United States. It helped lead to the establishment of the EPA in 1970 and the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972.

Despite the effectiveness of the Clean Water Act, there was confusion as to whether the law should apply to small bodies of water and tributaries that feed into the larger lakes, rivers and the ocean. For that reason, the Obama administration and the EPA undertook the effort to clarify the law.

The 2015 rule defined which bodies of water would be protected by the Clean Water Act. Obviously, large bodies like lakes and rivers were listed, but the rule also included streams and ponds that have connections to these bigger waterways. Under the new rule, anyone who wanted to discharge pollutants, dredge or fill them, would need to get a permit.

The EPA stated that protecting these smaller bodies of water was critical to ensuring the health of downstream waters, and the welfare of people, animals, fish and industries that depend on them. More than one-third of Americans get at least some of their drinking water from small streams, according to a report by the Environmental Working Group.

Not everyone was pleased with the new rule. It has come under attack from farmers, ranchers, land developers, industries and the American Farm Bureau. Most farmers and ranchers want to make their own decisions on the use of their land and resources and do not want to deal with time-consuming rules and regulations from the Federal Government. But not all farmers are against the new rule. Others see water quality as an issue that needs to be dealt with on a federal level.

Several environmental and outdoor groups have stated that the effects of the rule’s repeal would be devastating. It could threaten the drinking water of millions of Americans, according to a recent nationwide analysis by the Environmental Working Group. The president of the conservation Group Trout Unlimited released a statement that the repeal of the rule would be a disaster for fish and wildlife. Others have warned that without EPA oversight and regulations to protect America’s bodies of water, pollution levels could return to what they were years ago.

Even though Trump has signed the executive order to eliminate the Clean Water Rule, it isn’t going away any time soon. But environmentalists are concerned about what this executive order could mean for America’s waters and what other environmental controls could be facing the chopping block.

72 million people depend on small streams for their drinking water.  
This Interactive Map provided by the Environmental Working Group shows if your drinking water is dependent on small streams : Drinking Water Interactive Map



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